Trainer David Hayes believes that the wide Hong Kong Cup barrier draw for Criterion is not a disaster and he is optimistic about the chances of the four-year-old in the Group 1 event at Sha Tin on Saturday.
Criterion will jump from barrier nine when he makes his international racing debut in the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m) and whiles Hayes admits that the barrier draw was not perfect, he told Racing Ahead that he believes jockey Hugh Bowman will be able to find a nice spot for the four-year-old in the early stages of the race.
“It is not a disaster, but I would rate it six out of ten,” Hayes said.
“We have kept him fresh and I will leave that to Hughie, he knows the horse better than me.
“I really hope that he can get a bit of cover and a nice clear run in the straight.
“That is the key and he is drawn to get a nice clear run.”
Hayes has had plenty of previous success in Hong Kong during an almost decade long stint in the competitive racing jurisdiction from 1995 to 2006 and he won the 2002 edition of the Group 1 Hong Kong International Sprint (1200m) with All Thrills Too as well as 16 other Group 1 races in Hong Kong.
The leading trainer also famously won the 1990 edition of the Group 1 Japan Cup with equine superstar Better Loosen Up and Hayes believes that there are some similarities between Better Loosen Up and Criterion heading into the Hong Kong Cup.
“Just lately I haven’t had the class of horse like Criterion to travel and there is no point travelling unless you have a good one,” Hayes said.
“Better Loosen Up had a very similar program to Criterion, he won the Cox Plate and the Mackinnon and Criterion ran well in them, and this race isn’t as strong as the Japan Cup this year.
“I think that we are a great chance.
“Better Loosen Up couldn’t win a Rosehill Guineas and he did.
“I have kept him fresh and I am trusting the horse.
“You never know.”
Criterion is currently available at 2014 Hong Kong Cup odds of $12, while John Moore-trained Designs On Rome ($3.80) and Caspar Fownes-trained Military Attack ($3.80) are locked in a battle for favouritism in betting.